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PC Gaming Monitor Buying Guide

Before we get to the best gaming monitors of 2019, we’re going to go over some terminology that may trip up newcomers and touch on a few areas of importance like resolution and aspect ratios. You’ll also want to make sure your GPU can handle a UHD monitor or one with fast frame rates.

Panel Type

While it’s tempting to go straight for a big 4K gaming monitor, it could be overkill depending on the types of games you play. The kind of panel used can make a big impact when it comes to things like viewing angles and color accuracy as well as the price tag.

  • TN – A TN monitor with Twisted Nematic display technology is ideal for anyone who needs low response times for fast-paced games. They are cheaper than other types of LCD monitors, which make them popular with gamers on a budget as well. On the flipside, color reproduction and contrast ratios are lacking along with the viewing angles.
  • VA – When you need something with a decent response time and outstanding blacks, a VA panel is may be your best bet. It’s a “middle of the road” type of display as it has the best contrast along with good viewing angles and color. Vertical Alignment displays can be considerably slower than TN panels, however, which may rule them out for some.
  • IPS – If you’ve picked up a laptop, smartphone or TV set in the past decade, there’s a good chance it has IPS tech behind the glass. In Plane Switching is popular in PC monitors as well due to accurate color reproduction and excellent viewing angles, but tend to be more expensive. They are a good choice for gamers although response times should be taken into consideration for fast-paced titles.

In addition to the type of panel, you’ll also need to think about things like matte displays, and the good old panel lottery. There are also two essential stats to keep in mind with response times and refresh rates. Input lag is crucial as well, but usually not a concern for top models, and something manufacturers don’t tend to advertise for obvious reasons…

  • Response Time – Have you ever experienced ghosting? That could have been due to poor response times, and it’s an area that can give definitely give you an advantage. Competitive gamers will want the lowest response time they can get, which means a TN panel in most cases. It’s also another area where you’ll want to take manufactures numbers lightly as their rig and testing conditions are unlikely to match yours. 
  • Refresh Rate – Refresh rates are just as important, especially if you play shooters online. This tech spec is measured in Hertz or Hz and tells you how many times your screen updates each second. 60Hz is the old standard and can still get the job done, but 120Hz, 144Hz, and higher rates are ideal for serious gamers. While it’s easy to get bowled over by a high refresh rate, you need to make sure your gaming rig can handle those rates, or it’s all for naught.

Both these areas will affect the price and are directly tied to the panel style. That said, newer displays also get a bit of help from a particular type of technology.

FreeSync and G-Sync

Monitors that have a variable refresh rate or adaptive sync technology can be a gamer’s best friend. Getting your GPU to play nice with your new monitor can be easier said than done, and you can experience some extremely nasty issues like judder, screen tearing, and stuttering when things are out of whack.

This is where FreeSync and G-Sync come into play, a technology designed to synchronize your monitors refresh rate with your GPUs frame rate. While both work in a similar fashion, AMD is responsible for FreeSync and NVIDIA handles G-Sync. There are some differences between the two although that gap has narrowed over the years, so it comes down to price and compatibility at the end of the day for most folks.

FreeSync is more open and found on a broader range of monitors. That also means it’s cheaper as companies don’t have to pay to use the technology in their monitors. At this time, there are over 600 FreeSync compatible monitors with new entries added to the list at a regular rate. 

As for G-Sync, NVIDIA is a bit stricter so you’ll pay a premium for a monitor with this type of tech. You’ll get some extra features however although the ports can be limited compared to FreeSync models. The selection is sparse by comparison as well with around 70 monitors on the company’s list.

Both are technologies you’ll be thankful to have at the end of the day, but don’t expect to buy a FreeSync monitor and have it play nice with an NVIDIA card. The monitor will still work, but you won’t get adaptive sync which makes your purchase pointless.

Resolution

In a nutshell, display resolution refers to how many pixels are on the display. The more pixels, the better the clarity and there are tiers for tech that start with 720p and go up to 4K UHD. There are also a few oddballs with resolution outside the usual parameters which is where you terms like FHD+. Don’t be fooled by that however as most monitors follow the same set of rules.

For gamers, FHD or 1,920 x 1,080 should be the lowest resolution you consider with a PC monitor. The next step up would be QHD, otherwise known as 2K which sits at 2,560 x 1,440. You will notice the difference, but it’s not nearly as drastic as the jump to 4K. Monitors in this class have a resolution of around 3,840x 2,160 and are not exactly budget-friendly.

Size

The days of the old 4:3 aspect ratio are long gone as most of the best gaming monitors in 2019 will have wider screens. 16:9 is common, but you can go bigger than that if you’ve got enough space on your desktop. Your budget may dictate the size as well although you can get around that if you’re willing to make do with fewer pixels.

As for the size of the monitor itself, you can find 34-inch monitors with ease, but things get tricky beyond that range. Response times and refresh rates tend to drop dramatically while the prices go the opposite direction. There are a few exceptions, but they may require a small loan unless you’re a pro gamer or have deep pockets.

The Stand

One overlooked area that could leave you in a lurch is the monitor stand. Unless you plan to mount your new panel, the stand is critical to having a good gaming experience – especially if you play for hours on end.

It’s where ergonomics come into play as a good monitor stand allows you to adjust it to suit your needs. Thankfully, most monitors have a tilt range and height adjustment of 4 to 5 inches. A few can even swivel if they aren’t too large or curved, but some are more agile than others. Depth is another area to keep in mind as a poorly designed triangular stand can significantly decrease your desktop space.

Common and Bonus Features

Every monitor on our list has a common set of features like a DisplayPort, headphone jacks, and OSDs. It’s the “extra” features can help separate the best from the rest, however, and even the best on-screen display is a pain without a proper joystick.

Accent lighting is something most gamers enjoy and is common on high-end monitors. Headphone hangers should be standard but aren’t although you’ll find audio jacks on almost every display. USB ports fall under the common category as well along with HDMI ports. The standard is what you’ll want to hone in on as USB-C is still a rarity, and 2.0 ports are disappointing.


Post time: Nov-13-2020